A New Host
Title: A New Host
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: B:tVS, SG-1. Ethan Rayne had long been aware that something strange was going on in the state of Colorado. 1200 words.
Spoilers: B:tVS post-"Chosen". Stargate SG-1 post-"Origin" (9.3)
Feedback: It's the coin of the realm.
Notes: Fourth in the "Smoke and Flame" series; eighteenth ficlet for the twistedshorts August Fic-A-Day challenge.
"This new outfit, it's blundering into new places it doesn't belong. It's throwing the worlds out of balance. And that's way beyond chaos, mate. We're headed quite literally for one hell of a fight."
~Ethan, "A New Man" (4.12)
Ethan Rayne had long been aware that something strange was going on in the state of Colorado. Specifically, the Colorado Springs area. It had begun with a flare of unnatural energy that had caught his attention from halfway round the world, repeating itself more than once over a period of a few days, then disappearing entirely before he had quite got close enough to track it. It had felt like a spike in the Earth's natural magical field, though he knew it wasn't quite that, exactly; further investigation had revealed that only Ethan himself and a handful of other Janus devotees had noticed anything unusual.
Ethan had written the incident off as a powerful chaos spell let loose by an indiscriminate sorcerer, something he himself had been guilty of on occasion. He gave the event no further thought until the strange energy surge recurred a year later, and this time did not fade away after a few days' repetition. In the years since, scarcely a day had passed without his fingertips tingling at least once in response to that release of rogue magic.
Ripper's relocation to the Hellmouth about the same time the energy spikes had resumed had been a fortuitous coincidence from Ethan's point of view. He had done a great deal of investigating on his wandering route to California, hoping to discover-- and claim for himself-- whatever the source of the surges might be, but had never quite managed to find the answers. Whatever was going on under Cheyenne Mountain had heavy protection, both supernatural and not. Unless he wanted to throw in with a powerful magical group like Ripper's friendly Coven, or partner with a dubious military group like the American NID, he had little chance of infiltrating on his own. Neither choice was an option from his point of view. Not without Janus providing serious assistance, and the two-faced deity had proved impenetrably silent on the subject.
As irony would have it, of course, the little crowd of government commandos that Ripper turned him over to after the Fyarl incident were none other than an offshoot of the same NID he had been so carefully avoiding. They had access to metals that had a dampening effect on his magic and many other strange devices and substances that must have come from the Colorado complex itself. Ethan had begun to suspect, despite lack of evidence, that the thing he had been searching for was in fact a stable, reusable portal of some kind. Janus had been, after all, the Roman god of gates and doorways long before acquiring his status as patron deity of chaos.
Ethan had been at the Arizona complex for five years, behaving like a model prisoner in public and working what small magics he could get away with while in unshielded areas like the exercise yard, when his situation altered again. He had long since ceased to take note of the individual fluctuations in the Earth's energy caused by the opening and closing of the suspected fixed portal, especially as muted as the effect was behind the technology that kept his own magic mostly out of reach, but when the usual tingle along his nerves mutated into a burning fire that nearly blinded him with pain, he knew that something significant had just changed. As distracted as he was by the effects, the actual appearance of the god of chaos in his cell went almost unnoticed.
As soon as his muscles unclenched enough for him to move, Ethan went down on one knee, adopting a subservient pose. Janus generally preferred initiative and imagination in his acolytes, traits that generally went hand in hand with an independent nature and therefore did not generally require obeisance; all the same, in a situation like this Ethan thought standing up to him might be going a bit far. He still half-suspected that his exile to this place had been permitted because he'd been probing into a phenomenon that Janus would rather remain a secret.
The deity was dressed-- as far as an incorporeal being could be 'dressed'-- in a generic sort of classical Roman attire that Ethan suspected was more of an image used for its associations than because it was a genuine representation of Janus' origins. The doubled face above the toga had more features in common with the ancient Egyptians than Romulus' people, and the eyes glittered momentarily with an eerie orange light.
"Ethan Rayne," the figure said, in a deep, two-toned voice.
Ethan bowed from the waist and spoke his customary ritual phrase. "Chaos. I remain, as ever, thy faithful, degenerate, son."
"Indeed." The being chuckled. "Would you be willing to perform one final, simple service for me, in return for the opportunity to leave this place?"
Final? Ethan didn't like the phrasing of that, but it was his chosen deity speaking, and anything would be better than staying in this place. "I am yours to command," he said.
"Be certain," Janus cautioned him. "You must be a willing participant in the act, or the consequences will be a great deal more unpleasant than necessary for us both."
That statement aroused both Ethan's curiosity and his native impertinence. "That depends on what sort of act you're talking about," he said, in a considering tone of voice.
Janus narrowed his eyes at him, clearly irritated by Ethan's attitude, but answered anyway. "I require a temporary host," he said shortly. "One who will not fight me. Anubis did not care whether the occasional human puppet disintegrated under his control, but you have been useful to me, and I do not wish you fatally harmed. Additionally, unless I limit my behavior in extra-planetary matters to that more typical of an ordinary Goa'uld-- the class of being to which I belonged before I discovered a means to further evolve-- the Others will likely interfere with what I am about to do. And finally, there are those we must meet who will question whether my host is willing, and be far more likely to trust me if it is the truth."
Ethan rose to a standing position involuntarily and took a step backward, astonished by the revelations. Not so much by the strangeness or the unexplained references in Janus' answer, but more because the deity had bothered to explain. Or perhaps it wasn't so astonishing; it was knowledge Ethan would need if he agreed, and which Janus could wipe from his mind again quite easily if he didn't.
He considered the matter again, examining it from several angles, then reluctantly came to the same conclusion he'd arrived at the first time. Regardless of his personal desire to be far from the front lines of any dangerous action not involving Ripper, there was really only one answer he could give and hope for any future at all. Besides, he thrived on chaos; this could possibly turn out to be fun.
Ethan took a deep breath and nodded. "I am willing."
"Good," Janus exclaimed, and stuck his incorporeal hands through Ethan's throat.
A burning sensation built again in Ethan's nerves, this time concentrated at the base of his skull, and swept his consciousness away in a wave of disorienting pain.